Barnes, Dodgers reach deal on two-year extension

July 4th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers locked in a vital piece of their roster on Sunday, agreeing to a two-year extension with backup catcher Austin Barnes. The deal, which is worth $7 million, runs through the 2024 season.

“It's good to have some security and be with the Dodgers for another two years,” said Barnes. “It's a great organization, obviously, and I’ve been a part of some special teams here. And I think that's part of the future, too. I think these teams are either World Series or nothing. So it's the kind team I want to be part of.”

It’s security not just for Barnes, 32, but for the Dodgers as well, who will continue to send him out there when primary catcher Will Smith gets a day off. It’s not that the Dodgers don’t have catching talent in their farm system -- their MLB Pipeline-ranked top prospect, Diego Cartaya, is a well-regarded backstop. But Cartaya is just 20 years old and has yet to play above High-A. His projected Major League arrival is 2023, which is also the case for No. 27 prospect Carson Taylor and No. 28 prospect Hyun-il Choi. That is plenty of reason why it makes sense to keep Barnes around for a while.

In 31 games this season, Barnes has batted .179 with four home runs, 12 RBIs and two stolen bases. His true value, however, comes from his work behind the plate. In addition to being a respected game-caller, his strongest asset is his framing, which this season ranks in the 94th percentile among Major League catchers, according to Statcast. That’s well ahead of Smith, who ranks in the 43rd percentile.

Those abilities are a big part of why pitchers like Clayton Kershaw like working with Barnes so much. While Barnes isn’t Kershaw’s personal catcher per se, he has caught seven of the veteran ace’s 10 starts this year, and 48 of 70 over the past four years.

Extension talks between Barnes and the Dodgers have been ongoing for a couple of weeks, and the deal got done fairly quickly because, according to Barnes, “it just made sense.”

“I wanted to be here,” said Barnes. “It’s a great group of guys, and I believe in what's happening in this organization. So it's great to be here for another two years.”

A ninth-round Draft pick by the Marlins in 2011, Barnes has spent his entire Major League career with the Dodgers. In 455 games, he’s slashed .223/.333/.354 with 28 home runs and 124 RBIs.